Wichita State has 10 freshmen and sophomores on its roster, making it seem that a No. 24 ranking and 12-1 record is ahead of schedule, but coach Gregg Marshall is not shocked the Shockers are as good as they seem right now.
“If we don’t allow good to become the enemy of great, we can make a statement this year,” Marshall said. “We don’t have to wait for next year or the year after because we have 10 underclassmen. We can be good this year if we continue to work and dream it and make it happen.”
That dream continued in the Shockers’ first game of 2020 and their opener in the American Athletic Conference, defeating East Carolina 75-69 on Wednesday.
Wichita State next hosts Ole Miss (9-3) on Saturday in an AAC/SEC Alliance game. The teams will face each other for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
The Shockers won their sixth straight game and extended their home winning streak to 12 games with the win over East Carolina.
Sophomore guard Erik Stevenson posted team-highs with 17 points, nine rebounds, five assists, five steals and a blocked shot. Stevenson is the leading scorer (12.9 points per game) on a balanced team that has at least six players averaging 8.9 points.
“He’s a complete player. I’d like for him to shoot a better percentage, but Eric does a lot of good stuff for us,” said Marshall of Stevenson, who is shooting 39.9 percent from the field this season. “He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a multi-sport athlete. He’s a very good athlete. He’s got good hands. He’s got good anticipation.”
Marshall has also complimented the performance this season of junior forward Trey Wade (team-best 6.8 rebounds per game) and sophomore point guard Jamarius Burton (team-high 3.9 assists per game while scoring at a 10.1 clip).
Ole Miss heads to Wichita on a four-game winning streak but the Rebels will have played only one game in a two-week period when they face the Shockers. That one game was an 80-63 win at home against Tennessee Tech on Sunday.
Sophomore forward K.J. Buffen and junior guard Devontae Shuler each scored 20 points as the Rebels shot 54.5 percent from the field. They have shot better than 50 percent in each game over their winning streak.
Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis expressed disappointment in his team because it trailed Tennessee Tech 32-31 at halftime due to a lack of “toughness.”
“I think all coaches try to get their teams to play to the personality of the head coach and we’re not there yet,” he said. “People that have watched our teams, and I’ve coached about 780 games now, that the one thing people say is that ‘Kermit’s team is tough and they share the ball.’ It’s pretty simple, that’s what they’ve always done.
“Right now, I’ve got to get our team tougher. Tougher defensively, tougher rebounding the ball, more connected defensively.”
Leading scorer Breein Tyree (17.1 ppg) had only nine points while shooting 1 of 6 from 3-point range in 30 minutes against Tennessee Tech. He did pass Jack Waters (1,384 points) for 17th on the Ole Miss career scoring list.
–Field Level Media